Sun and Sands – in January

Winters in the Midwest can be grueling – as anyone who has lived here knows. Few seasons have been more severe than this one. So a few days away in a warmer place seemed like a very good idea. And, a conference that my husband wanted to attend in California provided the excuse.

So our plan to spend a week in sunny California materialized. An initial glitch – freezing rain and ice here – delayed our get-away for one day. But that actually helped because the rain storm in CA had ended – three days of rain which caused its own devastation further north. When we get there – first to Los Angeles and then to San Diego – the sun was out to welcome us.

You get off the airplane and the sun smiles on you and warms your body – suddenly the layers come off, one at a time. The morning can be a little chilly but by 10 in the morning, it is warm enough for a brisk walk outside with just a light sweater.

After staring at our winter wonderland for weeks, it was a lovely change to walk in the sun. A night spent at the picturesque Gaslamp quarter in San Diego was followed by a walk along Harbor Drive to the San Diego bay, with the Naval Station to the left and the tourist boat rides to the right. The sun is warm, and the water in the bay is a deep, clear blue. You forget it is still January, when you see folks in ocean beach cities enjoying music and good food – outdoors.

A few hours spent across the border in Tijuana – the sun is still the same – takes me back to India. Just like there, you can actually meet the person who made the leather purse you are admiring, a skill he learned from his grandfather. Bustling with tourists, the little shops have their knick-knacks – tiles, leather goods and dolls –splayed out on the sidewalks, enticing a curious tourist – what is this fascination of dolls with skeleton faces? Another curiosity is a man standing at a corner with a Mexican donkey-  it looks like a cross between a zebra and a donkey – _painted that way apparently.   Want to take your picture with it?  he asks.

In Southern California, there are the miles of sand on beaches which offer another sensual pleasure –walking on sand and then later dipping my feet into the chilly Pacific Ocean. So Cal being what it is – we enjoyed a walk on a doggy beach – one of the areas where dogs are allowed and the dog I am with enjoyed visiting with other dogs.

I was also able to indulge in another favorite pastime, as at every beach I go – picking a few shells.  Being aware of the stash I have at home, I only pick a few – just a souvenir to commemorate another beach visit. Perhaps what draw me to beaches is memories of my early years back in India, in Madras (now Chennai) as a child, building sand castles and decorating them with shells.

Other highlights of our getaway are visiting with family and friends, meeting the babies who are the next generation of the family (my great-nieces) and starting the growing season by helping my sister-in-law plant the first seeds of the season.

I know it is not possible for all of us – but I strongly recommend that if you can, make a trip to a sunny spot in winter.  It does not have to be an expensive cruise or hours spent sun bathing on a beach – even a few days away can be refreshing, recharging ones batteries. Then it is back to the January thaw- and another two months of winter.